Paid Leave for Employees if School/Daycare/Summer Camps are Closed

With the new school year fast approaching and some schools electing to delay the start date, we want to make sure employers are plugged into the requirements of FFCRA. Small businesses are required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to give employees paid leave from wok in certain circumstances relating to COVID-19. One requirement is that the child’s school/daycare/summer camp must be unavailable because of COVID-19.

The below article from FUBA helps breakdown the requirements of FFCRA.

Small businesses are required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to give employees paid leave from work in certain circumstances relating to COVID-19. Employees who cannot work due to very specific reasons related to COVID-19 are entitled to two weeks of paid leave, with an additional 10 weeks of paid leave if they have to stay home to care for a son or daughter whose school, daycare, or summer camp is closed due to COVID-19.

If you have an employee who cannot come to work because they have to take care of a child because the child’s summer daycare – a school, camp or other program in which the employee’s child is enrolled – is closed or unavailable for a COVID-19 related reason, the employee may be entitled to paid leave.

Keep in mind that the child’s school/daycare/summer camp must be unavailable because of COVID-19. School being closed for summer vacation does not qualify an employee for paid leave because school is always closed during the summer and that closure is not related to COVID-19. If school does not reopen in the fall due to COVID-19, that may qualify employees for paid leave. However, if schools reopen but the employee’s children are attending online or digitally, the employee may not qualify for paid leave.

If an employee requests paid leave, you should get the following:

  1. The employee’s name and the dates the leave is requested
  2. A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave
  3. A statement that the employee is unable to work or telework for this reason
  4. Documentation supporting the reason for leave

The employee also needs to give you the name and age of the child they will be taking care of, the name of the daycare/summer camp that has closed, and they must provide a statement that no one else will be caring for the child while the employee is on paid leave. If the child is older than 14, the employee must show that special circumstances require them to stay home with the child during daylight hours.

Employees taking paid leave because their child’s daycare/summer camp is closed due to COVID-19 must be paid two-thirds their regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day. Learn more about calculating pay here.

You can offset the cost of their leave by keeping a portion of the quarterly federal employment taxes you would otherwise deposit with the IRS. If the cost of the leave is more than your federal employment tax bill, you can request an advance refund from the IRS using form 7200. To claim a payroll tax credit, you must retain the documentation described above and comply with any IRS procedures for claiming the tax credit. For more information about how to claim these payroll tax credits and what documentation is required, click here. For more information about form 7200, click here.

Click here to learn about other reasons that entitle employees to paid leave.

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This article was written by FUBA Workers’ Comp

8 Questions Employers Should Ask About Reopening

Article was originally posted on HBR. To get all of HBR’s content delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Daily Alert newsletter.

In early March, when we published our HBR article “8 Questions Employers Should Ask About Coronavirus,” there were fewer than 100,000 cases and 4,000 deaths globally. Now, not quite three months later, infections exceed 5.5 million and employers face a whole new set of questions as they consider how to reopen the workplace after weeks or months of restrictions. As always, employers must remain nimble, and play close attention to local conditions and changing guidelines and practices. Here are eight questions they must now address.

  1. When is the right time for employees to return?

According to a survey of 854 U.S. employers we completed in early April, 42% reported that the majority of their workforce could work remotely — compared to just 14% before the pandemic. Employers now want to know when and how to bring many of their remote employees back.

The World Health Organization recommends that nonessential workers return when there is a sustained decrease in community transmission, a decreased rate of positive tests, sufficient testing available to detect new outbreaks, and adequate local hospital capacity to accommodate a surge of new cases should that occur.

Companies should be prepared to adopt different timetables for different geographies depending on local circumstances. They will do well to prioritize opening workplaces where work cannot be sustainably performed remotely, where there is high demand for the workplaces’ output, and where redesigning the space to allow for physical (social) distancing requires few changes.

  1. Who should return to the workplace?

Not everyone, and not all at once.

It’s best to have workers return gradually, which allows for lower density, making physical distancing less of a challenge. Maintaining a partially remote workforce also facilitates stress-testing physical or workflow changes to minimize disruption as more employees return to the workplace over subsequent weeks and months.

We suggest that workers at highest risk for complications of Covid-19 — those over 60 and those who are obese, have chronic lung or heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease — remain remote where possible until the amount of community transmission is very low. We also suggest that employees with children at home and who lack alternative child care, and employees for whom transport could pose a significant risk of exposure, should be encouraged to continue to work remotely if possible.

One option which can help avoid discrimination is for employers to simply allow employees to state they are uncomfortable returning to the workplace, without asking whether this is due to age, chronic disease, transportation concerns or child care.

  1. How can we protect employees who come to work?

The most important protection in the workplace is to effectively exclude those at highest risk of transmitting the disease. Forty-five percent of employers in our survey reported using thermal scanning to identify employees with fevers and exclude them. In the U.S., the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) has determined that during the pandemic employers may require employee temperature checks or testing without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since most people do not have a fever when they first get sick with Covid-19, it is essential to couple scanning with questioning of returning employees, e.g., asking them whether they have a known exposure, a sick family member at home, or other symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, or new loss of taste and smell. Many companies will restrict visitor access to the workplace to reduce the potential for exposure.

Some employers are using a mobile app or web form to ask these questions; others use signage in the workplace. Employers can exclude employees who answer affirmatively at their discretion, and we recommend opting for more rather than less exclusion in the early days of reopening. Bear in mind that that employees with paid sick leave are less likely than those without it to come to work when they are ill. While sick-leave policies may be expensive, the cost of inadvertently allowing infected employees into the workplace may well be higher.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends cloth masks for those who will come within six feet of others, and we recommend that employers require and provide masks for returning workers. Masks can be uncomfortable and must be removed for eating or drinking, but they provide some protection against spread of respiratory disease. Employers should explain that the mask is not to protect the wearer, but rather to protect co-workers. Handshakes are not coming back any time soon, and even elbow bumps don’t allow for the recommended physical distancing.

The workplace — whether it’s cubicles, an open workspace or an assembly line — should be arranged so that employees can remain at least six feet apart. Standing in lines should be abolished where possible; if a line is required such as at a cafeteria cash register, mark out 6-foot intervals to avoid crowding. (In the cafeteria, salad bars and finger food could promote spread of the virus; individually wrapped foods are safer.) More employees will eat at their desks, and companies can use sign-up sheets to decrease congestion in shared kitchens. Companies should continue to encourage hand-washing.

Companies should set capacity limits on conference rooms to allow six-foot spacing; if a meeting is too large for the available room, some participants should call in even if they are in the building. Plexiglass dividers can help prevent coronavirus spread in manufacturing, lobby, and retail settings.

Ninety-seven percent of companies in our survey reported enhancing their cleaning and disinfection, as well as increasing access to hand and surface sanitizers. While there is new evidence that the risk of virus transmission from surfaces is low, employees or cleaning staff should use disinfectant wipes regularly on shared surfaces such as vending machines or drink dispensers or shared printers, and employees should not share office equipment such as keyboards or phone headsets. Water fountains and ice machines can spread virus and should be turned off. Companies should also disable jet driers in bathrooms, which may disperse virus particles, and supply paper towels instead.

Finally, if an employee in the workplace is found to have Covid-19, companies must inform those who might have been exposed to him or her at work during the two days prior to symptoms. Those coworkers will need to be excluded from the workplace and self-quarantine. Employers must also maintain the infected employee’s confidentiality by not sharing their name.

  1. What role can testing play in making workplaces safer?

Testing can currently play only a small role in ensuring a safe return to the workplace. Right now, tests are expensive, in short supply and not accurate enough. Tests for current infection have low sensitivity rates (that is, they yield false negatives), so a negative test alone isn’t adequate to ensure that a worker is not contagious. However, testing can be useful in helping to identify asymptomatic coworkers at workplaces where there has been a known exposure. Point of care machines that yield “rapid” results can only process a handful of tests an hour, and nasal swabbing in the workplace could itself cause disease spread. Antibody tests, which require a blood sample, have a high rate of false negatives for current infection, and false positives for past infection. Further, after a person recovers from infection, it’s not clear that a positive antibody test indicates that they will be immune from future infection.

  1. What should we do if we discover an infected employee in the workplace?

Many have few or no symptoms early in a Covid-19 infection, and it’s likely that many workplaces will have an exposure despite the employer’s best efforts. As discussed, an employee or visitor with suspected Covid-19 should immediately leave the workplace and be advised to seek testing or medical attention. Areas used by the ill person for prolonged periods in the last week should be cordoned off and disinfected after allowing 24 hours for respiratory droplets to settle. Increasing air exchanges or opening windows can also reduce risk.

Employers should identify any employee who spent more than 10 minutes within six feet of the infected person during the two days before symptoms began, and those employees should also leave the workplace, self-quarantine, and monitor for symptoms until 14 days after their last exposure. Employees who have had passing contact, such as in a hall or an elevator, need not self-quarantine. Some exposed critical infrastructure workers such as transportation and health workers can return to work after exposure using masks and physical distancing along with heightened disinfection of their workspaces.

  1. When can employees return to business travel?

International business travel is unlikely to rebound until after this pandemic has receded. Many countries, if they allow international arrivals, require 14 days of quarantine, and business travelers might be quarantined again on return home. International business will continue to use teleconferences and videoconferences for many months to come, and travel will only resume substantially when there is a vaccine, effective treatment, or herd immunity.

Domestic travel will also remain limited in the coming months. Local areas that have new outbreaks will likely restrict movement, and a business traveler to such a region could be stranded there for weeks or months. Travel by personal car will come back first as this does not involve risk of exposure to others. Travel by train, bus, and airplane will take longer to return, and when it does business travelers are likely to encounter limited schedules that could increase travel time. When necessary, travelers can stay in hotels as most have ramped up their cleaning and disinfection; however, it’s still wise to use disinfectants on surfaces. Business leaders must clearly communicate and enforce company travel guidelines as they evolve.

  1. How can we meet employees’ growing mental and emotional health needs?

Many have suffered profound losses during the pandemic and have not had sufficient opportunity to grieve. Almost all of us have experienced loneliness. There will be more cases of anxiety and depression, and some survivors and their families will have post-traumatic stress syndrome. Access to mental health services was often poor before the pandemic, and needs will be greater now. Employers must step up to this challenge.

Most employers in our survey (58%) report increasing access to tele-behavioral health such as audio or video therapy sessions, while 83% report increasing communication about Employee Assistance Programs. Some types of cognitive behavioral therapy can be effectively delivered via mobile app, and we anticipate increased used of digital solutions to address some mental health needs. Some employees benefit from mindfulness and mediation programs, and the value of online programs has increased.

Employers can also establish virtual social networks to address isolation, and train supervisors to identify employee mental health needs in the remote workforce and make appropriate referrals. Consideration of family and child care responsibilities and encouraging exercise and time away from work also helps support employees’ emotional health.

  1. How should we communicate around return to the workplace?

False and unfounded rumors can spread as fast as a virus, and companies need to earn the trust of their employees through frequent and accurate communications. Companies should address employee concerns about the safety of returning by focusing communications on the actions being taken to protect them, including workplace cleaning, screening policies, and changes being made to allow social distancing. This information should be shared in regular pushed communications such as email, as well as through the company intranet and human resources sites.

Visual communication about appropriate behavior is also important. Companies should retire stock photos of employees who are clustered tightly together. They should also avoid images of people wearing medical-grade protective gear such as face-shields or N95 masks in non-clinical workplace surroundings as these remain in short supply and are not recommended.

Finally, because pandemics can incite xenophobia, bias and stigma, leaders should be alert to the potential for some groups or individuals to be stigmatized, and speak out against it. Hate crimes against Asians, for example, have increased with the current pandemic, much as African Americans were wrongly blamed for spread of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Our survey showed that 47% of companies are currently taking actions to reduce stigma during this pandemic, and 21% are planning to take such actions; still, almost a third of respondents have no such plans. Unconscious bias and anti-discrimination communication and training are key elements of diversity and inclusion strategies, and their importance is even greater now.

Covid-19 is a fast-moving virus and its impact on organizations and the world has been strong and swift. The practices outlined above will not only help protect employees, the community and company reputation, but also position companies for a smoother transition as they arrange return to the workplace.

If our free content helps you to contend with these challenges, please consider subscribing to HBR. A subscription purchase is the best way to support the creation of these resources.

Jeff Levin-Scherz, MD, MBA, is a managing director and co-leader of the North American Health Management practice at Willis Towers Watson. Jeff trained as primary care physician, and has played leadership roles in provider organizations and a health plan. He is an Assistant Professor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

Deana Allen RN, MBA, is a senior vice president of the North America Healthcare Industry practice and serves as the Intellectual Capital and Operations Excellence leader at Willis Towers Watson. In addition to work as a clinician she has served as a health system corporate director of risk and insurance and healthcare consultant.

Functioning in the capacity of an employer of others has always held its challenges.  Excelling in this roll during a global pandemic brings a whole new layer of complexity.  During this time, your Employment Practices can define you.

To hear more about the impact on Employment Practices Liability due to COVID-19, please join NAPEO’s EPLI Webinar, this Thursday July 16th, 12pm ET. Libertate’s own President, Paul Hughes, will be moderating. To register, click here.

NCCI Updates on Payrolls and Experience Mods – COVID-19

The National Council of Compensation Insurance (“NCCI”) has come out over the last few days with some important calls in regard to CoVid-19. 

Foremost, the NCCI is changing the class code for those that are still being paid and work from home, but under a different scope of employment.

Secondly, many States continue to revise their triggers for “presumptive coverage” for workers’ compensation.  In all States, first responders are considered to be covered on an occupational basis.  In others, the definition has been expanded to “health care workers”.  In others (ie Illinois), this definition has been expanded beyond first responders and health care workers to pretty much anyone that could be public-facing to include workers in restaurants, retail stores, grocery stores etc.

Lastly, the NCCI has decided that CoVid-19 claims should not be applied to experience modifications.  It is yet to be seen the 10 independent bureaus follow suit, but this is a big deal for those that are on guaranteed cost programs

Part 2 of our NAPEO CoVid-19 seminar on workers’ compensation with NAPEO is tomorrow at 2:30.  Hope to see you on the call —-

The below the latest from our friends at the NCCI –

Employers May Exclude Payroll to Employees Not Working for Workers’ Comp: NCCI

By | April 20, 2020

Businesses that have suspended operations due to COVID-19 but continue to pay employees who are at home but not working will not have to include the payroll paid to these employees in the calculation of their workers’ compensation premium.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) is preparing a reporting code that will be filed for approval by state regulators. The organization hopes to file it this week.

NCCI, the industry’s largest workers’ compensation data and rating organization, will file the change in the 36 states where it is the official rating bureau.

“We’ve had a meeting already with the insurance regulators telling them that it’s coming and sharing some information with them so that they’re ready for it and we hope that they’ll do a quick approval, Jeff Eddinger, senior division executive, Regulatory Business Management, for NCCI told Insurance Journal.

California’s rating bureau has already announced its own rule that this payroll paid during the shutdown will be excluded from reportable payroll. Other states with their own rating bureaus or monopolistic state funds are expected to follow suit.

Citing a desire for consistency across states, the North Carolina Rate Bureau told Insurance Journal it is waiting to see the NCCI rule change and will likely file that language for use in North Carolina.

The rule change is for payroll for people who can’t do their normal jobs from home, but are still getting paid. Without this rule change, that payroll would be included in calculating the employer’s workers’ comp premium. A workers’ comp premium is based on payroll.

“The rule change is going to basically take the payroll for that period of time where the worker’s furloughed and remove it from the calculation,” said Eddinger,

“You can make an argument that while they’re not doing their job, they don’t need workers’ comp coverage so the employers don’t need to pay the premium for that time.”

The trade-off is that a company that excludes an employee’s payroll can’t report any claims for that employee, Eddinger added.

The rule will be retroactive, most likely to March 1. How long the code will remain available will depend on how long shutdowns are in effect.

He said NCCI considered using an existing code for idle workers but determined a new rule would be better.

In another change, NCCI will also begin tracking COVID-19 related claims.

Eddinger does not think the payroll rule change will have a material impact on workers’ compensation carriers.

“It’s like hitting the pause button so you’re not charging premiums, but you also don’t expect any claims so in the end you think that it’s just going to be a wash,” he said.

It’s similar to the situation with auto insurers giving discounts on premiums for certain months, knowing that there will be less traffic and thus fewer claims.

Here is how NCCI’s explains the move on its website:

“NCCI recognizes that circumstances around COVID 19 are extraordinary and warrant an expedited rule change to address the question of payroll for employees who are being paid but are not working as it relates to the basis of premium. If approved, this rule change will be distinct from “idle time” under our current Basic Manual rules (Rule 2-F-1), and a corresponding statistical code 0012 will be created for reporting this payroll. This payroll will not be used in the calculation of premium.”

NCCI has a COVID Resource Center on its website that includes answers to frequently asked questions and a new analysis of the economics impact of coronavirus on the workers’ compensation industry.

Brief Update on Recent Activities By David Daniel, Florida PEO Lobbyist

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Update on Recent Activities related to COVID-19 from FAPEO –

There is a lot of COVID-19 related activity we have been working on for Florida PEOs as we face these uncertain times.  This email is intended summarize our recent work.

Emergency Orders at DBPR

With the required annual financial reports due to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation we contacted Secretary Beshears and asked that he issue an order delaying their due date.  Secretary Beshears indicated to us would be taken care of.

DBPR Emergency Order 2020 – 01 was issued March 16.  In the order Secretary Beshears suspends and tolls for 30 days any existing renewal deadline for a license, permit registration or certificate.

DBPR Emergency Order 2020 – 03 was issued March 23, 2020.  The order suspends and tolls through May 31, 2020 all time requirements, notice requirements and deadlines for final agency action or applications for permits, licenses, rates and other approvals under any statutes or rules.

Unemployment Compensation

As you can imagine there are reports from DEO of increased filings for unemployment compensation insurance.  While the UC Fund has significant resources available, as we have seen in the last recession, the unemployment compensation trust fund can go from flush to negative in a short amount of time.

It is expected with the dramatic decline in business activity related to the social distancing and businesses closures, employers will be forced to make some tough decisions with their workforce.  As you know, 443.131 F.S allows the Department of Economic Opportunity the ability to not charge an employer’s unemployment compensation contribution rate for a declared national disaster or an disaster of national significance.  Further, 443. 116 F.S. creates the short-time compensation program which allows an employer to reduce work for employees in lieu of layoffs with DEO approval.  We have requested DEO make the decision that this event and the subsequent layoffs which will follow are not chargeable to an employer’s unemployment compensation rate.  Further we have asked that if an employer chooses a short-time compensation arrangement it would also not be chargeable to their UC rate.

To that end, last week Governor DeSantis indicated in a press conference this event would not be charged to an employer’s unemployment compensation rate.  We are awaiting the official announcement from DEO.  There is no word yet on the short-time compensation and will let you know when we hear more from DEO.

Essential Business Sectors under CISA Guidance

The state and the country have been grappling with the impacts of decisions on social distancing, shelter in place orders and mandatory business closures.  Several counties have already issued emergency orders closing non-essential employers including Miami-Dade, Broward, Alachua and Duval counties.  We have asked the Governor’s Office to include professional employer organizations as essential critical infrastructure workers in any statewide emergency order mandating business closure.  At the direction of the Governor’s Office, we have based our request on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency guidance.  (See attached)

While the decision to issue a statewide emergency order closing all non-essential businesses has as not been made to date, our proactive efforts have placed us in the best possible position to remain open.

Additional Readings – Statues Issued

443.131 F.S. – Click here to read more.

443.1116-F.S. – Click here to read more.

DBPR – Emergency Order 2020 – Click here to read more.

CISA Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers – Click here to read more. 

State of Florida Emergency Order – Click here to read more.

 

Components of COVID-19 Relief Legislation

Below is a summary of the COVID-19 Relief Package from our friends at FisherBroyles

Components of H.R. 6201, COVID-19 relief legislation Temporary Expansion of Family and Medical Leave

  • H.R. 6201 would require employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave, ten weeks of which would be paid.
  • Leave would be for “qualifying need related to a public health emergency.”
  • Qualifying need is defined as to mean “the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school [meaning a primary or secondary school only] or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.”
  • A “public health emergency” is then defined to mean “an emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a Federal, State, or local authority.”
  • The leave applies to employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days, rather than the 12-month period under the current FMLA.
  • The Secretary of Labor has the regulatory authority to exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees if the provision of paid FMLA leave “would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”
  • Employers with 25 or more employees would be required to reinstate employees after their FMLA leave period ends.
  • Employers with fewer than 25 employers do not have to reinstate an employee if they are experiencing significant economic hardship.
  • The first 10 days for which an employee takes leave could be unpaid leave, or the employee could choose to substitute any accrued vacation, personal or sick leave (including in certain instances the emergency paid “sick” leave described below).
  • After the initial 10 days, the employer would be required to provide paid leave based on an amount that is not less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay and the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work.
  • The bill caps the amount of the paid leave, per employee, to no more than $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate.
  • This provisions would be effective “not later than 15 days after the date of enactment.”

Creation of a Temporary Paid Sick Leave Program

  • H.R. 6201 requires employers to provide full-time employees with 80 hours of certain emergency paid “sick” leave related to the coronavirus (with special rules for part-time employees).
  • The paid sick leave could be used in any of the following circumstances:
    • The employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
    • The employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19
    • The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
    • The employee is caring for an individual who
      • Is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19, or
      • Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
    • The employee is caring for a son or daughter where the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
    • The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of HHS in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
  • Full-time employees would be entitled to 80 hours of paid leave
  • Part-time employees are entitled to “a number of hours equal to the number of hours that such employee works, on average, over a 2-week period.”
  • The required paid leave ends with the employee’s next scheduled work shift following the end of the qualifying need.
  • The required sick pay is calculated based on the employee’s regular rate of pay or, if higher, the applicable minimum wage rate.
  • In the case of leaves to care for a family member or child, however, the required sick pay is based on 2/3rds of the regular rate of pay.
  • For part-time employees whose schedule varies from week to week, special rules apply to calculate the average number of hours.
  • The maximum amount of required sick pay per employee is $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.
  • In the case of leaves to care for a family member of child, however, the maximum amount of required sick pay per employee is $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate.
  • The bill imposes notice requirements and prohibits employers from discharging, disciplining or discriminating against employees who take paid sick leave.
  • The Secretary of Labor is instructed to provide a model notice within seven days after enactment.
  • An employer is also prohibited from requiring employees to look for or find replacement employees to cover the hours during which the employee is using the paid sick time.
  • Violations are punishable under the FLSA.
  • The paid leave provisions go into effect “not later than 15 days after the date of enactment” and expire on December 31, 2020.

Refundable Tax Credits to Pay for Leave

  • H.R. 6201 provides provide a series of tax credits to those employers subject to expanded FMLA and emergency paid “sick” leave requirements.
  • The employer-related credits, which are refundable, would be applied against the employer portion of Social Security taxes for each quarter equal to the “qualifying” paid leave wages paid by the employer.
  • The tax credits would apply with respect to both the FMLA-expanded paid leave as well as the emergency paid “sick” leave.
  • The amount of the tax credits varies based on the type of leave.

Tax Credit for Expanded FMLA Leave

  • H.R. 6201 would provide employers a refundable tax credit equal to 100 percent of the “qualified family leave wages” that the employer is required to pay for a given quarter under the Expanded FMLA Leave.
  • The amount of the qualified family leave wages that would be taken into account for purposes of the credit per employee is $200 for any day for which the employer pays the employee qualified family leave wages, up to a maximum amount for all calendar quarters of $10,000 per employee.

Tax Credit for Emergency Paid “Sick” Leave

  • H.R. 6201 would provide employers a refundable tax credit equal to 100 percent of “qualified sick leave wages” that the employer is required to pay for a given quarter under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.
  • The amount of qualified sick leave wages for purposes of the credit would vary depending upon the reason for the leave.
  • For employees who must self-isolate, obtain a coronavirus diagnosis or comply with a self-isolation recommendation from a public official or health care provider, the amount of qualified sick leave wages taken into account is capped at $511 per day.
  • The bill also allows for an increase in the amount of the tax credit equal to the amount “of the employer’s qualified health plan expenses as are properly allocable to the qualified family [or sick] leave wages for which such credit is allowed.”
  • The tax credit would apply to wages the employer pays between (1) a date that the Secretary of the Treasury must specify within 15 days after the date of enactment and (2) December 31, 2020.

Free Coronavirus Testing

  • H.R. 6201 would require that group health plans and health insurance issuers of group to cover FDA- approved COVID-19 diagnostic testing products.
  • Cost covered include the items and services furnished during a provider visit (office, telehealth, urgent care and emergency room) to the extent those items and services relate to the furnishing or administration of the testing product or the evaluation of the individual’s need for the testing product.
  • The mandated coverage must be provided without “any cost sharing (including deductibles, copayments and coinsurance) requirements or prior authorization or other medical management requirements.”
  • The requirement to cover COVID-19 testing costs starts from the date of enactment until the Secretary of HHS determines that the public health emergency has expired.

To see COVID-19 information, please visit fisherbroyles.com

Department of Labor Issues Final Rule to Allow Associations and PEOs to Sponsor Retirement Plans

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Final rule defines a PEO as an employer under ERISA and clarifies rules for PEOs to offer retirement benefits

On July 29, 2019, the Department of Labor (the “Department”) issued a final rule to facilitate and expand the availability of multiple employer defined contribution plans (“MEPs”). The final rule provides clarity regarding the types of “bona fide” groups or associations of employers as well as professional employer organizations (“PEOs”) that are permitted to sponsor retirement plans.

NAPEO supports the rule, as it is another step in in formalizing the legal framework for PEOs to provide benefits for their client’s shared employees. This action, along with the passage of the Small Business Efficiency Act contained in the Tax Increase Prevention Act (H.R. 5771, Public Law 113‐295) which created the voluntary IRS PEO Certification Program, demonstrates the federal government’s recognition of the PEO industry and the important role it plays in supporting our nation’s small businesses.

With respect to PEOs, the final rule does two things. First, it states that a “bona fide” PEO is capable of establishing a MEP. The rule then creates a safe harbor criteria for determining whether a PEO that sponsors a MEP is performing essential employment functions.

A copy of the final rule can be found here.

A summary of the final rule can be found here.

A detailed analysis on this issue from the Groom Law Group can be found here.

A recording of a NAPEO-sponsored webinar on this issue can be found here.

A copy of NAPEO’s comments on the proposed rule can be found here.
NAPEO Article can be found:

https://www.napeo.org/advocacy/what-we-advocate/federal-government-affairs/peos-retirement-regulation/dol-meps-finalrule

 

 

Potential Wage and Hour Claims Due to New Overtime Rule

Woman working at desk

This article was originally published on InsuranceJournal.com.

Time is running out for employers to familiarize themselves with new federal rules on overtime pay.

Starting January 1, the threshold for who is entitled to overtime pay — and who is not — changes. It’s the first change since 2004.

The new rule raises the income threshold that employees must reach to $684 per week, or $35,568 per year, to qualify as exempt from overtime. Employers are allowed to count up to 10% (or $3,556.80 per year) in bonuses or commissions towards the threshold.

Workers making less than the threshold are entitled to earn one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all hours over 40 during a work week.

Failure to properly implement the new regulations could expose employers to wage-and-hour type claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

For some employers, that could mean employment practices liability insurance claims.

That’s one reason Chris Williams is trying to raise awareness. Williams is employment practices liability product manager for Travelers. He is responsible for employment practices underwriting strategy, including policy language, target markets, overall profitability of the book, marketing, and serving as a general resource for underwriters on employment practices.

In a recent talk with Insurance Journal, Williams discussed the overtime rule change and what it means for employers, employees and insurance.

There’s so much else going on in the area of employment practices, the overtime pay issue hasn’t gotten much attention.

“That is a concern because the law’s already fairly complicated for employers to comply with,” Williams said. “Then, anytime you have a change in a complex law, you’re likely to see one, compliance challenges, and two, potential litigation coming out of that.”

Williams said the starting point is understanding the basics of the current rule compared to the new rule that starts in January.

Under the FSLA, employees that satisfy three requirements — they are paid on a salary basis, they are paid more than $23,660 per year, and they perform certain functions considered executive, administrative, or professional duties — are currently not entitled to overtime wages.

“For example, if you’re an executive, you’re a manager in an organization, you’re managing folks, you have the ability to hire, to fire people, and you make more than $23,660 per year, you are not entitled to overtime,” he explained.

Exempt executive, administrative and professional employees include teachers and academic administrators in elementary and secondary schools, outside sales employees and employees in certain technology occupations, according to the Department of Labor. Certain casual, seasonal and farm workers are also exempt from the overtime requirement.

For the new year, while the definitions and exemptions for those doing executive, administrative, professional and other work remain, the key change for employers to be aware of is that the salary threshold is going up from $23,660 to $35,568 per year.

“As a result of that, you’re going to have folks that are now within that pay band that are going to be entitled to overtime that previously weren’t entitled to overtime,” Williams said.

“Employers are going to have to one, figure out who those individuals are. And two, they’re going to have to make sure they’re tracking their time, and if those folks are working more than 40 hours per week, they’re going to have to make sure that they’re compensated on a time-and-a-half basis for that time in excess of 40 hours per week.”

While $35,568 is the threshold and where the primary impact is felt, there is also an upper limit as well. The high threshold under what is called the highly-compensated employee rule is going from $100,000 to $107,432.

“In other words, if you make more than $107,000, you have some administrative or executive functions within the organization, and you’re doing non-manual work, you’re not going to be entitled to overtime,” he explained.

The upper limit rarely is an issue. “We don’t see very much claim activity arising out of those individuals. It’s much more on the lower spectrum,” Williams noted.

In addition to the federal rule, depending on the state they are in, employers may have state laws on overtime pay they must follow as well. California is one such state.

“Employers in those situations are obligated to comply with both the state and the federal law. For example, in California, most of our overtime wage claims that we see pertain to state law as opposed to claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” he said.

Williams sees a few potential trouble spots for employers.

“One of the things we see today is employers, and I don’t think a lot if it is malicious, I just think it’s a misunderstanding of what their obligations are, but they may not pay their employees overtime.

“They may not correctly classify individuals as exempt or not exempt, meaning they’re entitled to overtime. They may not track their time correctly.”

Another area is claims for not compensating workers for time they spend putting on their gear to prepare for work. “If you work in a meat processing plant or something like that, you have to put on protective gear, and then you weren’t compensated for that time,” he said.

There are things employers should do to prepare for the new overtime situation, according to Williams.

“Employers will want to go back and make sure that they’ve correctly identified who is now entitled to overtime and are they, in fact, tracking their time and making sure those individuals are compensated correctly.

“It’s probably a good idea, given this change in the law, to review all your employees and make sure that you classify them correctly and you’re tracking their time properly and that you’re compensating them appropriately.”

Williams also noted that some employers may decide to raise the salary of their workers above the threshold of $35,568 to avoid an overtime issue. However, in order to avoid paying overtime for those workers, the employer would need to make sure the worker also qualified for an exemption under professional, administrative or executive.

“In other words, if the employer raised the salary of a worker above $35,568 per year, and the worker did not qualify for one of the exemptions, the worker would still be entitled to overtime,” he said.

Williams recalled that happened in some cases after the Obama Administration in 2016 initiated an even high threshold of $47,000. Some employers increased the pay of some of the workers beyond that threshold. But then the Obama change was struck down in court in September 2017 when a judge ruled that the ceiling was set too high and might apply to some management workers who are supposed to be exempt from overtime pay protections. Business groups and 21 Republican-led states had sued to challenge the 2016 rule.

The Department of Labor estimates that 1.2 million additional workers will be entitled to overtime pay as a result of the increase to the standard salary level, while an additional 101,800 workers will be entitled to overtime pay as a result of the increase under the highly-compensated employee rule.

Williams urges agents to advise their clients to take advantage of resources available to them to be sure they are in compliance— whether that be a human resources department, payroll processor or general counsel. He also recommends the DOL’s website that has information about the final rule.

Williams added that a number of insurance carriers including Travelers also have resources available. “It’s sort of a matter, one, of employers educating themselves, and then, two, taking action on that information,” he said.

Wage-and-Hour Claims

Those caught not in compliance could face wage-and-hour claims. Defense costs only for such claims may be covered under employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) but only for those purchasing a separate endorsement under their EPLI. It’s not part of the traditional EPLI. (Coverage of unpaid wages may be available to large firms with sizable self-retentions but this coverage is not typically available to small and medium firms.)

“A lot of carriers, including Travelers, will provide a sublimit that applies to defense expenses only for wage-and-hour claims. That generally includes issues like failure to pay overtime, misclassifying workers as exempt, potentially misclassifying workers as independent contractors when they’re in fact employees,” Williams explained.

There are certain state statutes, like in California, where employers are obligated to provide rest and meal periods. The separate coverage would include defense expenses for those types of claims as well.

Travelers offers a sublimit up to $250,000. “I think the market’s generally between $100,000 and $250,000, and there may be some outliers beyond that,” he said.

Since it’s been 15 years since the overtime rule was changed, this is in a way a new exposure, one agents may want to explore with clients.

“I think that’s a good idea. We sell this coverage to privately held companies and nonprofits, and we try to be proactive in selling it because it’s an exposure for employers that’s out there,” Williams said.

He noted that these claims are attractive to the plaintiffs’ bar because there is a fee shifting provision in the statute so that if the plaintiff prevails on the claim, they’re entitled to their attorneys’ fees. “You can have cases where the actual recovery amount may not be that significant in terms of the unpaid wages, but the attorney fee is potentially significantly more than that unpaid wage portion,” he said.

Other EPLI Issues

Overtime is hardly the only pressure on employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) these days when workplace issues are in the news on a regular basis.

EPLI provides protection against many kinds of employee lawsuits including claims alleging sexual harassment; discrimination based on age, race, gender or disability; wrongful termination, hiring or promotions; retaliation and wrongful infliction of emotional distress.

According to Williams, there are two areas in particular where EPLI is currently seeing increasing claims activity: sexual harassment and privacy.

“I’ll start off with the sexual harassment, and there’s been an uptick, particularly in severity, on those claims. There’s been an uptick in the frequency of those claims as well. It’s a challenging environment to litigate one of those cases in,” he said.

The second issue is biometric claims, driven by the Illinois biometric information privacy act.

“One of the requirements under that is that if you’re going to use biometric information of your customers or employees, you have to get a signed release from the employee or customer,” he said.

A number of employers have been using fingerprint technology to scan employees in and out and to clock when they’re coming and leaving work. In many cases, they did not get a signed release from the employee. “That’s resulted in class action claims brought against those employers alleging violation of this statute, sort of quasi-invasion-of-privacy claims,” he said.

Other claims areas that are relatively new include websites not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The website isn’t compliant if it doesn’t allow the disabled individual full use of that website because it hasn’t been programmed properly,” he said.

Travelers is among the insurers that will provide workplace violence expense reimbursement coverage that reimburses employers for certain expenses in the event of a workplace violence event. The expenses might include counseling, additional security, and services of a public relations firm to help a business through the crisis.

An employment practice claim is not a recommended experience.

“No one’s ever gone through an EPLI claim— which is a tremendously burdensome process in terms of the documents that have to be turned over, all the emails, the personnel files, the deposition the employer has to go through— no one’s gone through that process and ever said, ‘Boy, we’d like to do that again,’” Williams said.

Trump Administration Issues New Rule on Joint Employer Liability

The joint employer saga continues…see below from Insurance Journal regarding the Trump Administration’s announcement yesterday.

The Trump Administration announced a final rule setting forth standards for determining joint employer status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a rule that has been sought by franchisers and companies that employ contract workers.

The new rule from the Department of Labor, which will become effective in 60 days, is a departure from a legal interpretation adopted by the Obama Administration in 2016 and a 2015 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that expanded joint employment situations and made it easier for workers to sue their employers.

The new DOL rule, while not legally binding, does guide consideration of whether companies are classified as joint employers of workers and thereby can be held responsible for labor violations including requirements on minimum wage and overtime pay. The rule can affect franchising companies, contractors, temporary staffing, cleaning agencies and similar firms.

The issue has been central to several cases involving the chain McDonald’s and whether it can be held liable for alleged labor violations in its franchisees’ restaurants. Last month McDonald’s won a 2-1 victory before the current NLRB with Trump appointees—agreeing to pay $170,000 to settle workers’ claims against its franchisees but also winning a ruling that frees it from direct responsibility as a joint employer.

The Obama administration had backed worker advocacy groups in the litigation against McDonald’s.

The Obama standards for determining whether there is joint employer status themselves departed from long-standing precedent and made it easier for workers to sue their employer.

In its final rule, the Trump DOL provides a four-factor balancing test for determining FLSA joint employer status in situations where an employee performs work for one employer that simultaneously benefits another entity or individual. The balancing test examines whether the potential joint employer:

  • Hires or fires the employee;
  • Supervises and controls the employee’s work schedule or conditions of employment to a substantial degree;
  • Determines the employee’s rate and method of payment; and
  • Maintains the employee’s employment records.

A business would not have to meet all of these criteria to be considered a joint employer.

The rule also sets forth when additional factors may be relevant to a determination of FLSA joint employer status and identifies certain business models, contractual agreements with the employer, and business practices that do not make joint employer status more or less likely.

Recent History

In a decision known as Browning-Ferris Industries, the NLRB in August 2015 overturned established precedent for determining whether a joint employer relationship exists under the National Labor Relations Act. Legal guidance adopted by the Obama DOL in 2016 reflected the expansion of joint employer liability cited in the Browning-Ferris ruling. For example, it considered a franchiser a joint employer not only if it exercised direct control of employees’ activities, but also if it had “indirect” or even “potential” control.

The Trump DOL withdrew the Obama guidance in 2017.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, DOL Secretary Eugene Scalia and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the new rule should clarify the situation affecting these relationships and relieve companies of a potential liability.

“The new rule also gives companies in traditional contracting and franchising relationships confidence that they can demand certain basic standards from suppliers or franchisees—like effective antiharassment policies and compliance with employment laws—without themselves being deemed the employer of the other company’s workers. That will help companies promote fair working conditions without facing unwarranted regulatory costs,” the Trump officials wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

The International Franchise Association (IFA) praised the new rule as a “return to a simple, clear, and thoughtful joint employer standard.” IFA has argued that the Obama standard increased lawsuits against employers, cost jobs and sapped the American economy of $33.3 billion per year.

Robert Cresanti, IFA president and CEO, said the four-part test to determine employer status can clarify joint employer status, employer liability, and the roles and responsibilities of each party in a business relationship.

Worker groups have argued that a narrowing of the rule will create an incentive for large employers to outsource more jobs.

Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said the new rule “makes it easier for corporations to cheat their workers and look the other way when workplace violations occur.”

The liberal Economic Policy Institute has said workers could lose $1.3 billion in wages annually under the new rule.

There is more to come on the issue from the Trump Administration. While the DOL standards are not legally binding, the NLRB joint employer rule is. The NLRB is close to finalizing its own rule.

https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2020/01/13/554657.htm